Traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury occurs when an external mechanical force causes brain dysfunction.
Traumatic brain injury usually results from a violent blow or jolt to the head or body. An object penetrating the skull, such as a bullet or shattered piece of skull, also can cause traumatic brain injury.
Mild traumatic brain injury may cause temporary dysfunction of brain cells. More serious traumatic brain injury can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain that can result in long-term complications or death.
Traumatic brain injury can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later.
Mild traumatic brain injury
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries
When to see a doctor
The terms "mild," "moderate" and "severe" are used to describe the effect of the injury on brain function. A mild injury to the brain is still a serious injury that requires prompt attention and an accurate diagnosis.
Traumatic brain injury is caused by a blow or other traumatic injury to the head or body. The degree of damage can depend on several factors, including the nature of the event and the force of impact. Injury may include one or more of the following factors:
The people most at risk of traumatic brain injury include:
Several complications can occur immediately or soon after a traumatic brain injury. Severe injuries increase the risk of a greater number of complications and more-severe complications.
Blood vessel damage
Degenerative brain diseases
Tests and diagnosis
Because traumatic brain injuries are usually emergencies and because consequences can worsen swiftly without treatment, doctors usually need to assess the situation rapidly.
Glasgow Coma Scale
Information about the injury and symptoms
Intracranial pressure monitor
Treatments and drugs
The doctor will indicate when a return to work, school or recreational activities is appropriate. It's best to avoid physical or thinking (cognitive) activities until symptoms have stopped. Most people return to normal routines gradually.
Immediate emergency care
Additional treatments in the emergency room or intensive care unit of a hospital will focus on minimizing secondary damage due to inflammation, bleeding or reduced oxygen supply to the brain.
Therapy usually begins in the hospital and continues at an inpatient rehabilitation unit, a residential treatment facility or through outpatient services. The type and duration of rehabilitation varies by individual, depending on the severity of the brain injury and what part of the brain was injured. Rehabilitation specialists may include:
Follow these tips to reduce the risk of brain injury:
Preventing head injuries in children
Coping and support
A number of strategies can help a person with traumatic brain injury cope with complications that affect everyday activities, communication and interpersonal relationships. Depending on the severity of injury, a family caregiver or friend may need to help implement the following approaches:
Last Updated: 2012-10-12
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